A Night of Validation

Rodman’s ceremony celebrates his, Bad Boys’ greatness

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When you think about all the people who’ve played for the Pistons in the 54 years since they’ve been around in Detroit and realize that only seven men have been honored to have their names hanging above the court at The Palace and that five of them were directly involved with the Bad Boys, you realize what a special group that was.

Dennis Rodman will make it eight on Friday night and six of them who either played for, coached or built the Bad Boys when you talk about Jack McCloskey and Chuck Daly, as well. Jack made some terrific picks and certainly Dennis Rodman was one of those. He chose a guy in round two who turned out to be one of the greatest rebounders and defenders of all-time and a guy who, along with John Salley, was the final piece of the puzzle that made the Pistons an all-time great team.

That era of Pistons basketball is one for the ages. There might never be another one like that one. We witnessed a great run by the Goin’ to Work group in the 2000s. Those guys probably should have won another title and maybe they would be talked about in much the same way the Bad Boys were.

But the bottom line is the Bad Boys won two, should have won a third, I believe, and could have won a fourth. They were that good. They became a team that could terrorize the opposition when Dennis Rodman and John Salley came into the fold.

Look at the names hanging from the rafters – a Hall of Fame coach; an all-time great GM; and then Isiah and Joe, Hall of Famers who played in the backcourt together; Vinnie Johnson, who was as hard to guard as any off-the-bench player in the history of basketball; and Bill Laimbeer, who was one of the great competitors of all time, a terrific clutch player and, like Dennis, a great rebounder.

Add all of that up and you have a team that, no matter what anybody else wants to say, nobody wanted to play against and almost nobody could beat.

In my opinion, the 1980s was the greatest decade ever in the NBA. Just look at the luminaries who played in the ’80s, from big men like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, to the all-time greats who played small forward like Larry Bird and Dr. J, to Hall of Famers such as Adrian Dantley and George Gervin, and then add Magic Johnson and Isiah and some other great guards to that list.

I don’t see how any decade will ever compare with that one. It was so hard to win in the ’80s and when you did – and the Pistons did – you were going up against the best teams that ever played. To win two championships and to do it as convincingly as the Pistons did – and to be right there with the chance to win a couple more – that makes the Pistons one of the all-time great teams.

If anybody wants to quarrel with the fact they were a physical basketball team, they should go back and look at everybody else in the ’80s. When the Bulls won those titles in the ’90s, the talent level was nowhere near as high and the game was far less physical. If you were going to win in the ’80s, you better be good and tough and you better be smart. Because some of the smartest men who’ve ever played the game played in the ’80s. No matter what, the Bad Boys rank as an all-time great team.

So Friday night’s ceremony to retire Dennis Rodman’s number will be a celebration of Dennis and also a celebration of the greatness of that team. The only bit of sadness about the night is that it’s a shame that Mr. Davidson and Chuck Daly won’t be at The Palace to see Dennis’ number raised to the rafters. Mr. D loved his team and every one of his players and he certainly had a soft spot in his heart for Dennis.

Chuck Daly was like a father to Dennis. He cared about him, nurtured him, believed in him and was very, very proud of what Dennis did. I know somewhere Chuck Daly is smiling. I know somewhere Chuck Daly will be smiling as he looks down on this ceremony. It’s a shame he can’t be there, but believe me, Chuck’s presence will be felt in the building on Friday night.